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Chromebook Sales Surge

More than 5.2 million Chromebooks will be sold this year, says Gartner.

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Demand for Chromebooks is rising, particularly in the US education sector, and that trend poses a long-term threat to the device's rivals.

Sales of Chromebooks -- mostly portable devices running Google's Chrome OS -- are expected to reach 5.2 million units in 2014, according to Gartner. That represents a 79% increase from 2013. By 2017, the research firm predicts, Chromebook sales will reach 14.4 million, nearly triple the current unit sales. That's about 2 million less than the number of Mac computers that Apple sold in all of 2013.

Google said in July that schools had purchased more than a million Chromebooks during the second quarter of 2014. That same month, Dell said its Chromebook 11, targeted at schools, was unavailable due to strong demand. The device remains out of stock on the company's website.

But Chromebooks appear to be ready to move beyond the education sector. Gartner says that more than half of Chromebook sales in 2014 will be to consumers. Chromebooks accounted for 35% of all US commercial laptop sales during the first six months of 2014, according to the research firm NPD.

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On Monday, Acer launched its Chromebook 13 model, which ranges in price from $280 to $380, in a bid to appeal to consumers.

Isabelle Durand, principal analyst at Gartner, sees competition among Google's Chromebook partners becoming more fierce; eight Chromebook models have debuted this year. She attributes manufacturers' interest in Chromebooks to lack of growth in the traditional PC business and to a desire to revive interest in the moribund netbook market for sub-$300 devices.

Acer hopes its new Chromebook 13 appeals to consumers.(Source: Acer)
Acer hopes its new Chromebook 13 appeals to consumers.
(Source: Acer)

Durand says that Chromebooks will remain a niche market for the next five years. She argues that they need faster connectivity, faster memory, more capacious solid-state drives, and improved support for consumers, business, and education -- characteristics that would make them pricier and more competitive with popular laptop models.

Google already has produced one such device, the Chromebook Pixel, a high-end reference model that starts at $1,299. The company hasn't reported any sales figures for the device, largely seen as a way to prove that Google can make hardware as compelling as Apple's popular MacBook Air and to encourage hardware partners to integrate touch-based interaction for eventual Android app support in Chrome OS.

Durand says businesses can benefit from Chromebooks because the cloud computing model makes device management easier than it is with traditional PCs. But so far, she says, not many businesses have committed to Chromebooks.

Microsoft's response to Chromebooks shows that it considers the devices a threat. It has established a webpage to argue why Windows is better than Chrome OS, and it is promoting low-cost Windows laptops. It has also responded to Google's other free operating system, Android. In May, it made Windows 8.1 free to makers of phones and small-screen tablets.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
8/11/2014 | 7:36:48 PM
Re: But where is the stats?
The main problem for Chromebooks in a business setting is that there are still many Windows-based appilcations that people use. Not everything has migrated to the cloud yet.

Can you get away with using only a Chromebook at work? Maybe, if your organization is already on Google Apps. But I would bet it would need to be a company that has been on Google Apps for some time, and has adopted mostly cloud-based applications already. 
User Rank: Guru
8/11/2014 | 6:25:08 PM
Re: But where is the stats?
You're undoubtedly looking at NetApplications metrics, which measure self-reported OS and browsers accessing a relatively small number of Microsoft-centric sites. You might be interested to know that these same metrics show Apple mobile devices at 3x to 4x the traffic generated by Android, even though Android has 81% of the smartphone and over half the tablet market. In other words, web usage metrics tell us less than nothing about market share. Sales figures tell us about market share - and they're talking up a storm about Chromebooks right now. BTW, you give yourself away by claiming you bought a Chromebook with "no local storage" - no such Chromebook has ever been made. I think you misread Microsoft's propaganda before posting. ;-)
User Rank: Apprentice
8/11/2014 | 5:39:53 PM
Re: If I was back in 6th grade
Remember when calculators came out...they changed everything. Who would have thought that a device that I can now buy at a dollar store... 
User Rank: Apprentice
8/11/2014 | 5:24:06 PM
If I was back in 6th grade
If I was back in 6th grade, and the first day of class I was given a chromebook instead of 8 outdated textbooks and some bookcovers...

I could have the latest version of whatever subject the teacher is talking about, and know that it is current "state of the art" information... not obsolete.

I could have video and animation and chat and post questions to teacher and take quizes with immediate grading and the whole school library to help me write my paper due tomorrow and feel "cool" that I have a fancy computer finally because I grew up poor and so didn't get a new ipad and iphone and mac laptop.

Learning would be fun again, school would be fun, the future would look brighter.

All for under $300. Priceless. 
User Rank: Strategist
8/11/2014 | 4:56:46 PM
But where is the stats?
I keep reading these great numbers on Chromebook sales. But the web stats do not even show a blimp of Chrome OS usage as yet? Could it be that while those sales are true, that they are not being used as one would expect from a typical computer user? If most of those sales are with education, I believe this may not be such a great success after all. At least not from the consumer market which in my view would be of far greater inportance to a ad based revenue company like Google. I have no doubt that because they are cheap they are attractive in education. But from talking to administrators in education, the cheap Chromebook's are far from cheap. The added costs of a wireless network to service all those devices can be the biggest expense. In the end, many schools districts probably are seeing red in any kind of technology upgrade and simply choose Chrommebook's as a cheaper alternative to iPads. I do not see the kind of Chromebook user base in the wild as I would expect from large sales. In other words, the web is not detecting a lot of Chromebook users. Maybe its because they don't use Chorme OS or maybe they bought a Chromebook and never use it? Not sure why no web stats indicate much usage? Obviously from a vendor standpoint nobody cares if they use them. As long as they buy them. Of course Google cares because they want you to use Google products. Be interesting to see what happens when schools get open and start using them. I remeber when a lot of consumers were attracted to the netbooks too. But it did not last very long and those netbooks could do more then Chromebooks. I've bought a Chromebook to see what its all about and don't find it anymore useful then even a older laptop running Chrome browser? Its a bit slow, has no storage locally, its tied to Google and does not run many familiar programs people use. For me, its become a door stop so to speak and I rarely use it.
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